Joseph Phelps Backus Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2002
The 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon Backus Vineyard is a massive, youthful blockbuster with an opaque purple color as well as firm tannins (despite the general openness and ripeness of the 2002 Napa Cabernets). Almost overly rich, it has a long evolution ahead of it given its firm tannins and off-the-charts concentration and extract. One has to admire this cuvee for its extraordinary structure and multidimensional personality, but at present, even with airing, the primary aromas of new oak, loamy soil, graphite, incense and black fruits are all one can expect. In the mouth, the wine remains brutally tannic, but there is enough stuffing to easily balance out the wine's structure. It is a young, possibly great wine for the ages, and I would not hesitate to put my money where my mouth is. This 2002 should be absolutely amazing in 25-30 years.
From first sniff to finish, this head-turning young wine is nothing less than a classic expression of all that is best in Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Its juicy, concentrated aromas are rich in cassis and plentiful sweet oak while finding highlights of mineral and black soil terroir, and its very deep, keenly fruited flavors follow suit. Despite a bit of tannic hardness that is entirely in keeping with its varietal and age, the wine is wonderfully well-balanced and offers plenty of promise for an increasingly supple future if allowed the six to ten years of cellaring that its depth and beauty have surely earned. Kudos to Phelps for its one-two combination of stunners.
Right up there with the best of the '01 Napas. Smooth and polished, with a velvety mouthfeel that conveys cherry and blackberry flavors, without heavy extract. Oak plays a supportive role. The overall impression is of elegance, power and extreme balance.
Good medium ruby. Cassis, kirsch , menthol and roasted herbs on the nose. Rather muscular on the attack, then dense, lush and highly concentrated in the middle, with a deep core of dark fruit and bitter chocolate flavors. In comparison to the Insignia, this is a more rustic style of wine, but the concentration of phenolic material is impressive, and this 2002 is finer than the 2001 release. Finishes with excellent length and youthfully tough tannins, but does not build on the back end with quite the same subtlety as the Insignia. I'd wait a good six or seven years on this wine. The Backus vineyard, located across the valley from Harlan Estate, is now farmed biodynamically. The 1999 release was the last vintage entirely from vines planted in 1975; Phelps began replanting the vineyard in '97 and '98, after buying it in '96.